Christian Festivals in the New Testament

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on June 23, 2010

The Pentateuch mandates the observance of three annual feasts (Exodus 23:14–27; Leviticus 23; Deuteronomy 16:1–7): Passover, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, and the Feast of Ingathering, also called the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus and the earliest Christians were familiar with this Mosaic calendar, and the New Testament records occasions when they took part in these festivals. Jesus cleansed the temple during a Passover observance (John 2:13–17), taught in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14–39), and instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover (Matthew 26:17–30). It was on the day of Pentecost that the apostles, together in Jerusalem, were filled with the Holy Spirit and first preached Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:1). Paul, on what was to be his final trip to Jerusalem, expressed the desire to be there by Pentecost (Acts 20:16). The Jewish Sabbath was not a festival but a day of rest and of assembling in the synagogue for the study of the Scriptures. The Gospels record Jesus’ participation in the Sabbath service at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:16). Later, however, his attitude toward the Sabbath often drew the ire of the Pharisees, for he opposed their rigorous prohibition of all forms of "work" when it would prevent doing good to people, especially healing the sick.

As the church expanded out of the orbit of Judaism, the Jewish festivals were virtually laid aside. The church could not continue their sacrificial aspects, for Christ himself had offered the only efficacious blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11–14; 10:1–10) and in his death and resurrection had cancelled the decrees of the ceremonial law (Colossians 2:13–14). The New Testament draws on the vocabulary and symbolism of the Israelite feasts and of the Sabbath to interpret God’s action in Christ. The Lord’s Supper, as the covenant meal of the Christian ekklēsia, partly absorbed the significance of the Passover; however, it was not an annual festival but, apparently, a weekly observance. The Jewish Sabbath was supplanted by the Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.

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